Anthony Hilton , financial editor of the Evening Standard, told delegates that immigration from Eastern Europe was positive for the economy. An increase in the labour force of 1.75%, coupled with the fact that 80% of these immigrants are under 35, has "delivered a huge boost to the UK's economic growth".

Hilton added: "As people are doing more skilled work, average earnings are up in the region of 5-6%."

He was sanguine about the implications of growth: "as people get wealthier, their spending patterns shift... they significantly increase the amount they spend on services, particularly financial services."

And what does this mean for insurers? Hilton said: "All insurers are doing well... the UK is the place to be [and] the prosperity is likely to continue". But UK insurers and brokers face challenges, among them "regulatory concerns, contract certainty, contingent commissions and claims handling."

Hilton emphasised the importance of claims handling: "AIRMIC is thinking of producing a league table of insurance companies on their claims handling ability". He suggested "perhaps in this service-oriented world, how a company pays its claims is as important as all the other aspects surrounding the insurance policy".

And outsourcing is a major issue. Hilton reminded delegates: "The whole world is changing". He told the smaller brokers in the audience that "outsourcing is getting right down into the SME market". The choice of relocating to Bermuda or Gibraltar "is rapidly becoming an issue for the small brokers, small insurance companies and small service providers in ways that we would not have imagined only a few years ago".